Banking startup N26 raises $300 million at $2.7 billion valuation

Fintech startup N26 is raising a Series D round of $300 million. Following this new funding round, the company is now valued at $2.7 billion. Insight Venture Partners is leading the round with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and a few existing investors also participating. N26 is building a retail bank from scratch. The company […]

Fintech startup N26 is raising a Series D round of $300 million. Following this new funding round, the company is now valued at $2.7 billion. Insight Venture Partners is leading the round with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and a few existing investors also participating.

N26 is building a retail bank from scratch. The company lets you open a bank account and get a card in just a few minutes. You can then control everything from your phone or computer. And it’s a much better user experience compared to traditional banks.

This round comes as a surprise as the startup announced a $160 million funding round ten months ago. I talked with N26 co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf about this, and there are several reasons why raising money made sense.

First, N26 is a very different company now compared to early 2018. The user base has tripled and people are using their N26 accounts more and more. Around a third of N26’s customers are paying every month for a premium account.

The startup’s valuation has exploded as well. “The previous valuation was below $1 billion,” Stalf told me. In other words, N26 is in great shape and it made sense to grab more money before expanding to new markets around the world.

N26 is currently live in 24 European markets and has 2.3 million customers. The company plans to expand to the U.S. in the coming months as well as other markets around the world. Customers currently hold €1 billion in N26 accounts overall. And the company has processed €20 billion in transaction volume since its creation.

I interviewed Valentin Stalf about today’s funding round. This interview has been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.

TechCrunch: Your list of investors is becoming more and more global. Does it mean that, in addition to the U.S., we can expect other countries and other regions as well?

Valentin Stalf: Absolutely. Our goal now for the next couple of years is to transform N26 from being a European company to being a global company. We started in Germany and Austria as you know. We’re now in 24 markets including the U.K. where we’re offering our product in a different currency.

And now the next step will be the U.S. in 2019. We would like to bring N26 to four to six new markets outside of the U.S. and Europe in the next couple of years. But this year is really about the U.S. and then by the end of the year one more market or a couple of markets probably. But we see the opportunity to take the business global. And that’s also what everybody who invested in this round signed up for.

TC: It’s the first time you’re sharing the valuation, which is quite high. Does it mean that the financials of the company are looking good? Are you making money and from what?

Stalf: Two things led to the success of this funding round. One is tremendous growth. We’ve more than tripled the number of customers in the last year. Globally, I think we’re the fastest growing mobile bank on the market now. It’s one driver of the valuation — the future potential that there are many more customers searching for a banking alternative.

We’ve also worked on the profitability of our company. We’re definitely today the most advanced player on the market in terms of profitability per customer. Obviously, we’ll be consuming cash in 2019 — that’s why we raised a round to invest in new markets. But if you look at our company on a per-customer basis, we’re profitable on a per-customer basis. And I think it’s very important.

Where is the revenue coming from today? We’re very much focused on the daily usage of our product. So one is really from card transactions and the interchange fee. Second is our subscription model. Depending on the market, up to 32 to 35 percent are choosing one of the premium products that we’re offering — it’s a really important revenue driver. And then you have the daily usage of financial products, such as overdraft, savings and consumer credit and these things that we have on the German market, the French market. We’re bringing that now to the U.K. and other markets.

TC: On the product front, are there other products that you’re going to roll out or are you more focused on launching the entire lineup of products across all your markets?

Stalf: I think we want to internationalize existing products to new markets and bring our financial products that we have to more of the markets that we’re in.

But I think the strong focus that we have in order to internationalize is really to innovate more on the product. We’ve launched Spaces before Christmas — I would say version one. The big update that is coming out in the next two months is really about sharing a space, creating a shared account either long term with your partner or short term with friends.

We’ll add much more functionality to Spaces. We’ll be adding virtual cards that you can add per account. We’ll be adding different account numbers.

TC: Let’s go back to the funding round. You’ve raised $160 million a year ago — it’s quite quick. If I read that correctly, does it mean that you’re thinking that competition is fierce or that you should get a war chest in case there’s an economic downturn?

Stalf: I wouldn’t call it an economic downturn, but if you look at the equity market, obviously valuations have been challenged over the last couple of weeks. And I think we were lucky in terms of when we raised funding. I think it was good timing.

Independent of that, we’ve never raised because of any timing thing or so. Our company managed to do incredibly well in the last year in terms of profitability and growth. And we’ve had a lot of people approaching us, we’re always in contact with different investors. I always think the best time to raise is when you don’t need to raise. GIC and Insight are the best investors we could have thought of.

TC: Let’s talk about the future. Now, that you’ve got a ton of funding in your bank account. How do you see N26 in a couple of years as a product, as a company and as a brand?

Stalf: I think we have the opportunity to really build a business with a hundred million customers globally. I truly believe in this. And that means that we’ll have to build the brand that you need for such as business. It’s going to be a big focus.

If you look more at our company, we have now 700 employees in three locations around the world — Berlin, Barcelona and New York. We will open a couple of offices throughout the next year in Europe and maybe somewhere else in the world. So it's really awesome to transform our company to be more global — we already have 50 different nationalities.

Comcast debuts a subscription service to protect against threats to smart home devices

Comcast is putting A.I. to work to protect its customers’ home networks. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company announced Xfinity xFi Advanced Security, an A.I.-powered service designed to monitor, block and inform customers about online threats while providing protection for all connected devices in the home – including smart home and […]

Comcast is putting A.I. to work to protect its customers’ home networks. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company announced Xfinity xFi Advanced Security, an A.I.-powered service designed to monitor, block and inform customers about online threats while providing protection for all connected devices in the home – including smart home and “internet-of-things” devices that are often the target of online attacks due to their weaker security.

People’s homes no longer only have computers and phones connecting to the internet. Today, our houses are filled with connected devices, like voice-powered speakers, smart home appliances, security cameras, connected doorbells and thermostats and much more. Even some kids’ toys connect to the internet.

According to data from Cisco, there will be nearly 13 connected devices per person in North America. And the number of attacks across these connected devices is growing – by 600 percent between 2016 and 2017, Symantec reported.

That’s where Comcast’s new subscription service comes in. xFi Advanced Security is available to turn on from within the existing xFi app, where it then begins to monitor and manage the network traffic.

The system analyzes the traffic using A.I. and machine learning technologies, then automatically blocks anything it deems “suspicious activity.”

“We can see traffic coming in that’s not normal – coming from weird IP addresses or known bots, and we can look at the heuristics of the traffic to basically stop it,” explains Fraser Stirling, Senior Vice President of Digital Home, Devices and AI at Comcast. “It’s basically like anomaly detection. We understand that device from all the devices that are connected by brand and model. We can understand what that traffic looks like…so if [the device] starts to do something that’s abnormal to the pattern for your house or for all the people that are using the same thing, we can track that as an anomaly.”

For example, if a device that normally goes to a certain IP address to get its firmware updates is all of a sudden going somewhere else, the service can block the traffic and alert you.

“The most important part of the product is that we tell you,” he says.

Customers will be alerted to these blocked threats in real-time and offered instructions on how to further secure their devices, if need be. For example, if it blocked a suspicious website that was distributing malware, it will provide the URL and explanation. It will later provide the website you visited where that link may have been embedded – helpful in the case of malicious ads, among other things.

A second use case for the product is its proactive scans, which can alert you to other issues – like if a device has all its ports open, for example, which makes it vulnerable to attacks. xFi Advanced Security can close those ports, but it can block the malicious traffic and tell you what’s happening and why through its alerts.

All these alerts can be viewed from the xFi dashboard both online and in the xFi app.

The system is powered in part by the A.I. platform Cujo AI, incidentally a TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016 Battlefield finalist. Comcast won’t detail the specifics of its arrangement with Cujo, which it refers to as “ingredient technology partner.” However, it hasn’t made a strategic investment, the way it had done with Plume, the maker of what are now called the xFi Pods.

Beyond enabling the subscription, the new security service doesn’t require set up on the customer’s part. Customers just plug in their various connected devices and turn them on. Afterwards, xFi Advanced Security identifies the device and allows to add them to a user profile – like mom, dad, or child or to the general “household” profile, which covers smart home devices or those used by all.

The service, once enabled, immediately begins to scan and protect the home network – including devices plugged in through Ethernet as well as those connected wirelessly.

In a later version, the company is considering offering more information about the threats it detects and blocks, as well as information about potential security issues – like if a device needs a firmware update, for instance.

While xFi Advanced Security sounds good in theory, security experts tend to be unimpressed until they’re able to put a product through its paces. So it’s too soon to give it a recommendation on that front.

After all, many of today’s smart home devices – especially the cheaper ones – weren’t built with a security-first mindset, and are riddled with flaws. A threat-scanning service can’t actually fix their issues – like their use of default passwords, UPnP left on by default, root passwords in the firmware, or a telnet port left open, for example. xFi Advanced Security can alert you to those issues, however, in some cases.

But people could protect their network if they’d just close UPnP on the router itself, and change the default passwords on the smart devices they connect. And they could do so without a subscription. But most people don’t know how to do these things.

For Comcast, xFi Advanced Security presents an opportunity to generate revenue from xFi customers through services that expand the capabilities of its existing xFi platform. It’s the first subscription-based offering to live on top of xFi, in fact.

Launched in 2017, xFi lets customers control their home networks from a dashboard to do things like set parental controls, pause the Wi-Fi and receive alerts about home network activity, among other things.

The new xFi Advanced Security integrates here, and customers can choose to sign up within the xFi app.

The service is $5.99 per month and is available to any customer who rents an xFi Gateway – meaning, some 15 million homes, notes Comcast. In some markets, it will also be sold as part of package deal, the company says.

The cost of the Gateway ranges from $11 to $13 per month, as prices vary by market. The xFi app is free and available both on Android and iOS.

Additional reporting: Zack Whittaker

Getaround co-founder Jessica Scorpio leaves day-to-day role

Since launching Getaround at TechCrunch Disrupt New York in 2011, the car-sharing startup has expanded to over 90 cities and, more recently, raised a massive $325 million round of funding led by SoftBank. With the company in a good place and its co-founder and CMO Jessica Scorpio “really happy with where things are,” she told […]

Since launching Getaround at TechCrunch Disrupt New York in 2011, the car-sharing startup has expanded to over 90 cities and, more recently, raised a massive $325 million round of funding led by SoftBank. With the company in a good place and its co-founder and CMO Jessica Scorpio “really happy with where things are,” she told TechCrunch, it’s time for her to take some time off, leave her day-to-day role at the company and move into a role on the board of directors.

In addition to serving on Getaround’s board of directors, Scorpio says she’ll join some other boards and likely do some more angel investing. Meanwhile, Getaround hired five people to join its executive team. Those roles entail a VP of People and Culture, VP of Marketing, General Counsel, VP and GM of Conveyance.

“Today, we are well on our way to realizing the vision that Jessica, Elliot and I set out to achieve years ago,” Getaround CEO Sam Zaid wrote in a blog post. “We have Jessica to thank, in large part, for how far we’ve come, and I’m excited to pass her torch to a world-class executive team.”

Since Getaround’s launch in 2011, a number of competitors have entered the car rental market. General Motors’ Maven, for example, lets people rent relatively new cars by the hour, while Turo offers a more Getaround-like peer-to-peer rental platform. In April, Turo raised $12 million following a $92 million fundraising round earlier in the year. Still, Getaround was most attractive to SoftBank.

“As we saw the space early on, we knew this would be a big market,” she said. “We took a long-term perspective in building technology that would create behavior change, while also tee-ing up the market for self-driving cars and a platform for sharing cars in that future.”

As a car owner, you can list your vehicle for on-demand rentals via Getaround. After you list it, Getaround installs its Connect hardware, which allows renters to locate and unlock your car using the Getaround mobile app. For extra peace of mind for the car owner, the Connect also features GPS tracking, tamper detection and engine lock.

Getaround also has deals in place with brands like Audi and Ford to further incentivize people to share their cars. In 2016, Getaround teamed up with Toyota to enable people to purchase cars that are pre-installed with Getaround connectivity. Earlier this month, Getaround expanded its partnership with Uber to cover four more cities. Dubbed Uber Rent, the platform taps into Getaround’s existing marketplace of cars that are available for instant rentals.

“I’m excited to be involved at the board level,” she said. “We have a lot of exciting plans and will continue innovating on what products we offer, going to more markets, expanding internationally and continuing value-add partnerships.”

YayPay raises $8.4 million for its accounts receivable service

Fintech startup YayPay just raised another $8.4 million for its software-as-a-service solution focused on collecting money from outstanding invoices. The company participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield several years ago. Information Venture Partners led today’s funding round with existing investors Birchmere, QED, Fifth Third Capital, Gaingels and 500 Fintech Fund also participating. YayPay targets large companies […]

Fintech startup YayPay just raised another $8.4 million for its software-as-a-service solution focused on collecting money from outstanding invoices. The company participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield several years ago.

Information Venture Partners led today’s funding round with existing investors Birchmere, QED, Fifth Third Capital, Gaingels and 500 Fintech Fund also participating.

YayPay targets large companies with an accounting department. The startup provides the perfect service to handle unpaid invoices. YayPay analyzes previous invoices and predicts when you’re supposed to get paid depending on the client and the nature of the invoice. This way, you know which account needs your attention right now.

Teams can collaborate to send reminders and make sure everyone is on the same page. You also can view information about your client directly in YayPay thanks to CRM and ERP integrations.

YayPay also eliminates a bunch of pesky tasks, such as gentle email reminders. You can create automated workflows so that your clients get an email a few days before a payment deadline. If they don’t open the email, you can receive a notification telling you to call them. Customers also can pay invoices directly using YayPay. The platform supports ACH and credit cards.

While this seems like a niche product, the company has managed to attract 480 clients that have generated more than $7 billion in accounts receivables. This represents a 500 percent user base increase over the last 12 months.

[gallery ids="1757942,1757944,1757945,1757946,1757947,1757940"]

And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018 is… Legacy

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup. After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ […]

At the very beginning, there were 13 startups. After two days of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner.

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup.

After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Imago AI, Kalepso, Legacy, Polyteia and Spike.

These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Sophia Bendz (Atomico), Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Luciana Luxiandru (Accel), Ida Tin (Clue), Matt Turck (FirstMark Capital) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch).

And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018.

Winner: Legacy

Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing men’s sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later.

Read more about Legacy in our separate post.

Runner-Up: Imago AI

Imago AI is applying AI to help feed the world’s growing population by increasing crop yields and reducing food waste. To accomplish this, it’s using computer vision and machine learning technology to fully automate the laborious task of measuring crop output and quality.

Read more about Imago AI in our separate post.

Watch Disrupt Berlin day 2 live right here

Disrupt Berlin generally kicked ass yesterday, and things are only going to get better from here. Welcome, friends, to Disrupt Berlin Day 2. We have a great show in store for you, including Julie Hansen and Markus Witte from Babbel, the full cast of Accel Philipe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru, and Harry Nelis. […]

Disrupt Berlin generally kicked ass yesterday, and things are only going to get better from here.

Welcome, friends, to Disrupt Berlin Day 2. We have a great show in store for you, including Julie Hansen and Markus Witte from Babbel, the full cast of Accel Philipe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru, and Harry Nelis. Plus, we’ll hear from Threads founder and CEO Sophie Hill, as well as Starling’s Anne Boden.

But that’s not all…

The Startup Battlefield finals are going down today. Five startups — Imago AI, Kalepso, Legacy, Polyteia, and Spike — will battle it out one last time for $50,000 USD, the Disrupt Cup and eternal glory.

You can catch the whole thing live right here so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Legacy freezes your sperm so you don’t have to

Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing our sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later. Legacy, which exhibited in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin […]

Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of sperm motility as we age. By freezing our sperm, this Swiss-based company promises to keep our boys safe and potent as we get older, a consideration that many find vital as we marry and have kids later. Legacy, which exhibited in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2018, was chosen as the wildcard company to present its services onstage during Startup Battlefield.

How does it work? Well, the company delivers a system for grabbing sperm. The material is kept in a specially made container and shipped to a nearby clinic where they then test the sperm and place it in cryogenic storage. You can then make a withdrawal when you’re ready for babies.

“Our unique at-home solution allows men to have their sperm analyzed and frozen at a clinic without leaving their home or having to meet with a physician,” said founder Khaled Kteily. “All clients receive a full fertility analysis, including personalized recommendations using our machine learning-driven technology.”

Kteily ensures us that our special sauce will stay safe over the years.

“Our core values of privacy, quality, and security ensure discretion, anonymity, and the highest level of quality for all our clients, including multi-site storage, whereby our clients’ deposits are stored in multiple tanks in multiple locations at high security.”

[gallery ids="1752635,1752630,1752631,1752632,1752633"]

The company offers three packages: Bronze, Gold and Platinum. The $1,000 Bronze package requires you to take your sperm to a clinic where it will be tested and cryogenically stored. The Platinum plan costs $10,000 and ensures the company will keep up to six samples of your swimmers indefinitely, affording your genetic material practical immortality.

Kteily founded the company after a friend looked for solutions to sperm storage while facing cancer treatment. Realizing there was nothing that looked trustworthy or usable, he used his background in health and entrepreneurship to build Legacy.

The company has raised $250,000 and they are profitable. Kteily sees his company as the “Swiss Bank” of sperm storage.

“Male fertility has declined by 50 percent. Every 8 months, men produce a new genetic mutation that gets passed on to their children. Birth rates around the world are plummeting and men are responsible for infertility in 30-50 percent of couples. Meanwhile, you can freeze sperm indefinitely with no loss in quality — through Legacy, without having to leave your home and at a tenth of the cost of egg freezing,” he said. “We treat our clients as a private bank would — our core values of quality, privacy and security ensure our clients are taken care of at every level.”

Koo! is a social network for short-form podcasts

Alexandre Meregan says that music, and audio in general, has always been core to his life. But one day on his five-minute commute to work, trying to listen to a podcast for the first time, he realized that by the time he arrived at work he had only heard an introduction and a commercial jingle. […]

Alexandre Meregan says that music, and audio in general, has always been core to his life. But one day on his five-minute commute to work, trying to listen to a podcast for the first time, he realized that by the time he arrived at work he had only heard an introduction and a commercial jingle.

He immediately went to work on Koo!, a short-form podcast app aimed at young people. Koo! lets users record up to one minute of audio, add “sound stickers” like a drum roll or a poop sound, and share the “Koo” in a feed with their friends and followers.

Meregan believes that some young people are hesitant to share their thoughts on social media, which is mostly picture or video-based, because of the quantification of their self-worth through Like counters. With Koo! users can simply speak their thoughts without having to share a picture or video.

“At Koo! we believe a lot of great content is being held back by teenagers due to insecurities that comes with photo and video,” said Meregan onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin on the Startup Battlefield. “We feel that what you say should be more important than how you look.”

Like most social networks, Koo! is primarily focused on acquiring new users before focusing on a revenue model. Ad-supported revenue is the most obvious option to make money, but Meregan says that the team has been floating around a few other ideas, as well.

[gallery ids="1752074,1752075"]

One user-acquisition tactic, according to Meregan, is to target YouTube content creators and give them a complimentary service to share their thoughts and voice.

A handful of startups have tried their hand at audio-based social networks, but few have managed to gain much traction.

Koo! is backed by Sweet Studio, though Meregan declined to share the amount of funding the company has received to date.

Rlay offers a blockchain-powered platform to help companies build better crowdsourced data sets

The team behind Rlay believes that blockchain technology can play a crucial role in helping businesses crowdsource their data-gathering tasks. Founder Michael Hirn said this is a problem he encountered while working with Sunstone Capital to develop a more quantitative approach to venture capital, which meant pulling startup data from a wide variety of online […]

The team behind Rlay believes that blockchain technology can play a crucial role in helping businesses crowdsource their data-gathering tasks.

Founder Michael Hirn said this is a problem he encountered while working with Sunstone Capital to develop a more quantitative approach to venture capital, which meant pulling startup data from a wide variety of online sources. It ended up being an incredibly time-consuming process, and he said, “90 percent of the time was spent cleaning the data and acquiring the data.”

CTO Max Goisser argued that this is a broad problem. There are already successful examples of crowdsourced data, most notably Wikipedia, but in his view, they succeeded because “these things were of value for the entire world — everyone’s interested in that.”

“But what if you wanted to crowdsource something that is [only] interesting to you as a company?” Goisser said. Then you’d need the right incentive system to convince people to contribute. And that’s where Rlay (pronounced “relay”) comes in — the startup is launching onstage today as part of our Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin.

There are other startups, like Dirt Protocol, offering blockchain-powered tools for data collection and verification. But it sounds like one of Rlay’s big selling points is its ability to integrate with existing enterprise database technology.

In other words, Rlay leverages the blockchain side of things to provide a mechanism for people to contribute data and be rewarded for their contributions (each customer decides how they want to structure the incentives), but the goal is to collect the data in a format that’s useful for the company, and where, if the company desires, it can be kept private.

“We abstract over the backend database that you as a company would use, we abstract over the blockchain or ledger technology — it’s currently Ethereum, but technically, it doesn’t matter,” Hirn said. “So you don’t have to figure out how to work between Postgres and Ethereum, you don’t have to figure out ‘How do we represent the data?’, all of that is taken care of by Rlay.”

Rlay screenshot

As for the incentives, he said:

There are almost as many ways [of] incentivizing as there are different types of financial products. Obviously some ways are more robust than others and we outlined a very general and universal incentive mechanism in our whitepaper, but for most of the applications that is a little bit to complex. So with Rlay, we will provide some templates in the future and certainly advice for certain ways when we work with a client, but Rlay just gives a good interface to define these things very easily.

Ultimately, this should allow companies to acquire the data they need at a lower cost than going out and buying data sets or hiring their own data collection team. For example, Hirn said Rlay is working with “a big name in the blockchain space” to gather environmental, social and governance (ESG) data required by hedge funds and other investors.

For now, Hirn said Rlay is focused on working with developers to collect data that’s online but not aggregated or structured in a way that makes it easily accessible. In the ESG case, that means writing scripts to pull the data from the reports that many companies are already publishing. Ultimately, Rlay could move into collecting data from the physical world, as well.

Goisser said the company is also developing various ways to recognize and resolve conflicting data, so its customers can be sure that the information they’re collecting is accurate.

Spike Diabetes applies social pressure to keep patients safe

It can be tough for diabetes patients to keep a constant eye on their glucose levels. Spike Diabetes lets family and doctors lend a hand by sending them real-time alerts about the patient’s stats. And the app’s artificial intelligence features can even send helpful reminders or suggest the most diabetes-friendly meals when you walk into […]

It can be tough for diabetes patients to keep a constant eye on their glucose levels. Spike Diabetes lets family and doctors lend a hand by sending them real-time alerts about the patient’s stats. And the app’s artificial intelligence features can even send helpful reminders or suggest the most diabetes-friendly meals when you walk into a restaurant.

Today onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin Startup Battlefield, Spike Diabetes is launching its Guardian Portal so loved ones with permission can get a closer look at a patients’ data and coach them about staying healthy.

“Diabetes is an incurable chronic disease that forces diabetics to live a life of carb-counting and insulin injections. Since diabetics are forced to do those mundane tasks for the rest of their lives, they tend to fall off the tracks sometimes simply because of how demanding those tasks can be,” says Spike co-founder Ziad Alame. “As for guardians and parents, they are left in the dark about their loved ones.” With doctors often only getting data during quarterly or semi-annual checkups, patients are often left on their own. A lifetime of management is very stressful, especially if your life depends on it.”

The startup faces stiff competition from literally hundreds of apps claiming to help patients monitor their vitals. MySugr, Diabetes Connect and Health2Sync are amongst the most popular. But Alame says many require users to track their levels through complex spreadsheets. Spike offers customizable mobile charts, and will even read users their stats out loud to make staying safe an easier part of daily life. Spike is invite-only and just on iOS, but it also touts an Apple Watch app plus optimized engineering to minimize battery usage.

“Spike started off as a personal project to help myself adhere better to my medication after reaching critical times in my diabetic life,” Alame tells me. Now he’s bringing to the problem his experience as CTO of the GivingLoop charity platform, TeensWhoCode summer camp and Zoomal crowdfunding site for the Arab world. Alame has assembled a team of diabetics, engineers and PhDs, plus $200,000 in seed funding from MEVP, Cedar Mundi and Phoenician Funds. They hope to see the premium paid version of Spike’s freemium app overtake longstanding competition through word-of-mouth triggered by bringing loved ones and doctors into the loop.

One of the app’s most interesting features is the proactive info it delivers. “For example, you walk into McDonald’s around 2 PM. Spike would automatically know it’s lunch time for you and suggest the top three options you can have with approximate carb counts,” Alame tells me. “After some time (~25 minutes) Spike automatically reminds you of your insulin and syncs with your diabetic devices to log all the details. With time, as the app gets to know the diabetic’s taste more, Spike would be able to suggest small behavioral tweaks to enhance lifestyle such as walking routes suggestions or new places similar to the diabetic’s taste but with a lower insulin consumption rate.”

Alame jokes that “The biggest risk [to Spike] is the best thing that can happen — which is finding a cure for diabetes.” But even if that happens, he believes Spike’s app for tracking and actively coaching users could be relevant to other diseases, as well. For now, though, it will have to convince users that an app could make managing diabetes simpler rather than more complex.